Can Security Deposit be taken as Last Month’s Rent?

Can Security Deposit be taken as Last Month’s Rent?
When I moved in to my apartment, I signed a one-year lease agreement which indicates clearly that I had paid the ”first month’s rent”, a ”security and cleaning fee” deposit, and also a ”last month’s rent” (all exact terms). I moved out at the end of the lease but did not pay for the last month’s rent, assuming that I’ve already paid it upon moving in. Later, my landlord said I still owned him a 30 days rent, which he would subtract from my security deposit. To my understanding, according to California laws, landlords cannot use security deposit towards last month’s rent. My questions are:

(1) Especially in my case, the last month’s rent is prepaid, could my landlord use my security deposit towards last month’s rent, and if yes, what happened to the original last mont’s rent?

(2) The security deposit was more than one month rent, and I never received the remainder of it. Instead, more than a month after I moved out, I received a letter from my landlord demanding more money to pay for cleaning service. Is this legal?

What should I do in this case to recover my security deposit?

Thanks for your reply.

2 thoughts on “Can Security Deposit be taken as Last Month’s Rent?

  1. Re: Can Security Deposit be taken as Last Month’s Rent?
    Is it legal? Probably not.

    At this point, after you have moved out, the tags or labels attached to the money you gave the landlord are not all that significant. What is really important is the debits and credits to your account. On the one hand, add up every penny you paid the landlord, either as some kind of deposit or as rent of any kind. From that total, deduct every legitimate claim the landlord has against you, i.e. rent for every single month you were there, plus documented charges for cleaning, late fees, damage, and all that other BS.

    The difference between the two is what you owe him, or he owes you.

    A minor exception to this is that if the landlord has withheld a deposit refund in bad faith, he may be liable for up to $600 statutory damages.

    Try, however, to settle up based on showing each other your numbers and figuring it out; this will save you hassle and credit damage versus a small claims suit.

    In answer to your specific question, if you really paid last month’s rent and it was labeled as such at the time, it is not deductible from the deposit for the obvious reason that it has been paid. Still, follow the net balance formula I suggested above. That’s what the judge will care about.

    Bryan Whipple
    Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law
    P O Box 318
    Tomales, CA 94971-0318

  2. Re: Can Security Deposit be taken as Last Month’s Rent?
    In addition to what Mr. Whipple said in his answer, the landlord is required to notify you in writing withing 21 days of your vacating the property of any charges for which he is retaining a portion of the deposit. If he fails to do so, he is required to refund 100% of the deposit, and seek other remedies to collect.

    Ken Koenen
    Koenen & Tokunaga, P.C.
    5776 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Suite 350
    Pleasanton, CA 94588

Comments are closed.